2021 40 Under 40: Pooja Shah

Nov. 23, 2021
Pooja Shah, Fellow, Clean Energy Leadership Institute
  • One word to describe yourself: Driven
  • Alma Mater: Syracuse University
  • Favorite station or stop you have ever visited or frequent: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in Mumbai, India, is one of the most awe-inspiring stations I have ever visited. A symbol of Mumbai's history and prestige, CST is a treat for the eye with its eye-catching blend of Victorian Gothic Revival and Mughal architectural styles.

Pooja Shah, a fellow with the Clean Energy Leadership Institute, brings a unique combination of technical, leadership and entrepreneurial skills to the industry.

While working at Kiewit, she created opportunities for diversification of business and a cleaner and more sustainable world. She demonstrated her leadership abilities on several clean energy, mobility and transit projects in engineering and design, consulting and business development roles. As a lead project engineer within the engineering and consulting services group, her focus within Kiewit was on delivering innovative and reliable energy solutions to meet the clients’ decarbonization and sustainability goals.

In January 2020, Shah delivered a speech to more than 1,000 Kiewit employees at a Kiewit Power Engineering District Meeting to share her vision for electrification of the energy and transportation sectors. At the same meeting, Kiewit honored Shah with the Young Professional of the Year award for her commitment to excellence in the renewable energy and emerging markets group in 2019.

As a woman of color with an engineering background, Shah has an intersectional approach to addressing climate change. As part of Climate Action KC’s Equity Committee, she worked alongside several elected officials and community leaders to push for more inclusive and equitable policies and solutions to improve climate resilience in Kansas City. As part of this team, she helped shape equitable electrification and transportation policies to help drive healthier communities, affordable mobility and easier public transit access for marginalized communities. This plan is now being used as a model by several local counties to shape a more equitable clean energy economy.

Beyond her commitment through her technical work, Shah capitalizes on every possible opportunity to share her knowledge and experiences with others. She is a mentor with the Global Women's Network for Energy Transition (GWNET) program for Latin Americans Countries and Women in Energy Storage where she mentors women on applications of batteries, their role in electrification of transportation, fleet mobility and vehicle to grid integration. She is an executive board member for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers—KC and Emerging Leaders Advisory Council for the Boys & Girls Club of Kansas City, a society dedicated to fostering Hispanic leadership and is part of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. She is also on the Central Exchange WiSTEMM Leadership Team that annually celebrates the accomplishments of women in Kansas City who are setting trends and breaking barriers in STEMM fields. She is the advocacy squad lead for UnitedWE’s first ever young professionals’ group who engage young professionals to educate women about civic engagement and empower them to step into decision making roles where they can drive policy changes.

Additionally, Shah has been recognized by several environmental organizations for her leadership. Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) recognized her with a WRISE DEI 2019 Award for her leadership and efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in environmental sustainability and she also received the Women Powering Smart Energy Award 2021 in the rising star category for being an inspiration to young women driving electrification. She has a master's degree in Renewable Energy Systems Engineering from Syracuse University, a specialization in Sustainable Enterprise and is Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green associate. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The transportation and mobility industry impact several aspects of our daily life. I enjoy the challenge of solving complex problems that touch equity, access, health, safety and climate change. It is extremely gratifying to work towards a better – a more equitable and sustainable – future by designing solutions that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and public health, advance environmental justice and help transform our transportation network.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Extremes of climate and weather have altered from historical values in ways that are becoming difficult to predict or project and risk profiles are constantly changing. A changing climate poses critical challenges to how we engineer and design our new systems as well as adapt our existing infrastructure. As the onslaught of extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes and floods driven by climate change continue to increase, we are constantly learning and problem-solving to ensure that our systems are sustainable and climate-resilient.